Jason Pearson is one of the greatest artists of his, or any other, generation. I really can't think of anyone else with his set of skills: dynamic and interesting layouts, beautiful and clear linework, total control of the characters' acting (both facial and body language), breathtaking action and effortlessly sexy when required.
This combination puts him in a very selective group of masters (I am putting him up there with your Campbells, Lees and Hughes), but due to health issues, chronic lateness and him being outspoken (and some might say a bit self-destructive) he was never considered as a real contender to the throne … which is unfortunate, because in a lot of ways he's way better than almost everyone out there.
For the sake of making this article readable, I am going to be focusing on his sequential art. His cover work is extensive, but there's a checklist with more information on that.
I started noticing his work early on, with his first DC work: The Legion of Super-heroes (the last third of Keith Giffen's “5 years later” era Legion). I am a huge fan of Giffen, so before I go any farther, let me recommend you the first 37 issues of this series. I liked Levitz and Giffen's Legion just fine, but when Giffen came back and worked with the Bierbaums on this, the series jumped from being a superhero soap opera set in the future to being an intergalactic political drama that remains one of my favorite runs ever.
So after being treated to Giffen's delightful and moody art on the first 20+ issues, a new artist starts with some backups in a few issues and then takes over the main series with issue 26. Working from Giffen's layouts and heavy use of the nine panel grid, it made for an almost seamless change … except this new guy made everything look a lot better. By the time the series reached #37, and both Giffen and Pearson stepped down, I was a fan.
The next milestone in Jason Pearson's career would be a couple of years later (in the meantime he worked on a couple of Marvel annuals and some short stories … and Penthouse's Men's Adventure Comix) with the Dragon: Blood & Guts 3-issue mini-series.
Pearson both wrote and pencilled the 3 issues, an action movie in comic form that drinks from both Tarantino and John Woo (he even plays the bartender in the comic, as he did in Hardboiled). The series also acts as some kind of draft for his career's biggest project: Body Bags.
Body Bags “debuted” two years before that, in 1993, in the Creators' Universe trading card set (if you've never heard about it, this set featured creator-owned characters both new and old, but mostly new, and most of which have been forgotten since). As part of the Gaijin Studios (like a certain Mr Stelfreeze), Pearson and the rest of the team introduced different characters that were supposed to be part of a Gaijin anthology at Image, but apparently Image decided against publishing it. So it would take a while before we heard about Body Bags again.
The first Body Bags mini was published by Dark Horse in 1996 and introduced us to Panda and Mack, a father and daughter with a special relationship and an even more special occupation: they are both hitmen. Well, Mack is, Panda wants to learn the family trade. Again, the series references the movie Leon, but uses that as a starting point to introduce us to the vicious city of Terminus and its numerous corrupt individuals. A thinly veiled excuse to draw people kill each other in every way imaginable? Probably, but don't sell it too short, there's a lot more going on in the series and most of it revolves around Panda, Mack and their relationship.
Sometimes we complain when comics are late, but this might have been a delay that actually helped the artist put things into perspective. When you look and compare the trading card with the preview, it looks as if the original idea was to have Panda be “a mysterious young girl”. For all the violence of this series (no matter how beautifully depicted), it just wouldn't be the same without the father/daughter bit. It adds a lot of heart to the series, in fact it's almost the only place of emotion in the whole story.
Pearson has returned to the characters in numerous short stories and a couple of one-shots and reading those is an incredible way to see his evolution as an artists. Funny to see now how his style got a lot more cartoony in the early 2000's (also check Batman: Gotham Knights #22) to then become more realistic (as can be seen on his later art like Deadpool: Wade Wilson's War) to his current darker style. In any case, he is an artist that deserves to be paid attention. Always evolving, always interesting.
His latest interior work is America for Overground Comics, but he stopped working on the series after the first two issues and launched a Kickstarter campaign. The series he wanted people to fund? Body Bags, of course. And it got funded within a few days. As I write this, the series was supposedly going to be completed 4 months ago, but you don't see me worried. It's Jason Pearson … If it takes longer it only means he needs to take longer with it. The end result will be worth it. This man's a genius.